Immigration rule change may affect hundreds in state

  • By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
  • Thursday, January 3, 2013 4:41pm
  • Local NewsNorthwest

SEATTLE — Several hundred Washington families are expected to benefit from a U.S. immigration rule change announced this week that makes it easier to keep American citizens together with their illegal immigrant spouses and children.

The legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project said Thursday that it’s too early to say how much time and effort the new rule will save families.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how it comes about in practice,” said Matt Adams.

Before the rule change, which goes into effect March 4, many illegal immigrants had to leave the country before they could ask the federal government to waive a three- to 10-year ban from returning to their American families.

Under the new rule, a U.S. citizen can petition for a waiver while the noncitizens remain in this country waiting for a decision. They will still have to prove that a separation will cause extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen spouse or parent.

Illegal immigrants will still have to return to their home country to finish the process, but the new rule is expected to save them months of waiting time and shorten the separation from their loved ones.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services office was unable to estimate how many people from Washington state would be affected by the change. Adams estimated it would be several hundred, based on the fact that several hundred people seek legal help each year in this state concerning the situation affected by the rule change.

U.S. officials estimated the rule change would affect more than 24,000 people across the nation but could not break the number down state-by-state.

In a news conference about the rule change Wednesday, Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services, said the time abroad for the consular interviews will be reduced from months to weeks.

Adams said the change isn’t everything immigrant rights advocates want, but it’s a move in the right direction.

“I don’t think it’s a final solution. We need Congress to act,” he said.

The waiver shift is the most recent result of President Barack Obama’s changing immigration policy without congressional action. Congressional Republicans have criticized the president’s efforts as granting “backdoor amnesty” to illegal immigrants.

Adams said immigrant activists are not sure why the rule change only affects families of American citizens, when a larger group of legal permanent residents also are affected by similar rules that cause families to be separated.

“It could be that they want to roll it out on a smaller scale,” he said, adding, “I’m not optimistic that they will later revisit this, at least not in the near future.”

————

Online:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services: www.uscis.gov

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project: www.nwirp.org

More in Local News

500 tires go up in flames at a store south of Everett

There were no injuries. And it was nowhere near as bad as that months-long tire fire in 1984.

Inclusion super important to Monroe High senior

Sarah Reeves worked to make homecoming more representative of the student population.

A pot deal between teens leaves them injured, facing charges

Police found out about the incident when both ended up at the same hospital that night.

Funds up for council vote would aid conservation district

District stands to receive an extra $1 million each year, if the County Council gives its approval.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Lake Stevens man injured by 50-foot fall near Leavenworth

The rescuers had to tie in to keep from falling due to the steep rugged terrain.

Missing 6-year-old’s body found in trash bin near Lynnwood

Dayvid Pakko was mildly autistic. A suspect in his death is a relative, the sheriff’s office said.

1 shot dead, another wounded in apparent Everett robbery

There are indications the victims might have known the shooter, who apparently fled in a vehicle.

Hiding in plain sight: Burned Everett building had rich past

It was a hotel, boarding house, fraternal lodge, church, dance studio and office furniture store.

Most Read